There once was a time when Americans owned other human beings as property. It’s not something any person should remember proudly, but here’s the thing; slavery wasn’t just an American atrocity, it was practiced all over the globe. Even African people had slaves. In fact, many Africans sold off prisoners of war or outsiders from other tribes to Americans. Historians date slavery back to ancient Mesopotamia. Today this region is mostly Iraq but also parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey. Mesopotamia is thought to have traded goods in exchange for slaves from Egypt, although in ancient times, slavery was not associated with ethnicity or nationality. Slavery has existed almost, if not just as long as humans have existed and it was created by Africans and Asians (Middle East), not Europeans.
Even between 1861 and 1865 when slavery in the United States was at it’s peak, only 8% of families owned slaves and slaves themselves made up just 13% of the American population. The reality is, even when slavery was the norm in America, most people didn’t own slaves.
Recently there’s been a trend to boycott or disregard anything that has “roots in racism.” Some going so far as to say The Star Spangled Banner should no longer be our anthem because it’s author, Francis Scott Key was pro-slavery. Now there’s a call to remove the faces of anyone who owned slaves off of our money. Others say the Constitution should be questioned because its writers owned slaves.
All that’s fine and dandy, if you want to uphold the standard that you won’t respect or use or abide by anything with racism in it’s history, cool. The thing is, if you have that standard, you should be protesting a lot more than the national anthem. There’s a lot of American policy rooted in racism.
The Minimum Wage
The Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, America’s first minimum wage law was created to help protect white people from competing with blacks for jobs. During this time period, black people were “stealing” white people’s jobs because they were willing to do the same work for less. Black people weren’t the only ones the minimum wage was trying to hurt, it also protected white male workers from competing with women.
The same thing happens today. I remember searching for a job shortly after my 16th birthday, desperate to find a way to earn some gas money. Having been turned down a few times, I complained to my dad about the minimum wage before I really even understood it. Frustrated I told my dad, “I wish I could offer to be a cashier for like $6 an hour so they’d hire me. Then I’d work hard so they wouldn’t want me to leave and they’d pay me more!” My dad kind of chuckled to himself and said “I agree with you, Chick.” At 16 I was realizing that the minimum wage was hurting me, I’d rather make $5 an hour than no dollars an hour. Minimum wage laws took away my ability to freely negotiate my pay with my potential employer.
In a free market, any worker who can add value to a company would be paid based on that value added. When you create a minimum wage you force employers to establish a minimum productivity criterion and then hire accordingly. This often cuts out handicapped folks, kids, inexperienced people etc. from being hireable. They may have been worth $4 an hour, but they aren’t worth $7.
Willingness to start working for less is a tool the underprivileged use to gain job experience. When you enforce a minimum wage you actually make the worker’s bargaining power weaker. The minimum wage is not only rooted in racism, but it’s rooted in eugenics. Professor Thomas C Leonard of Princeton has written the most on the topic recently. You can read his article “Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era” or check out his book Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era.
This story is similar to minimum wage as the two are directly linked. Labor Unions pushed for the minimum wage to protect white male workers. Labor Unions blocked the advancement of blacks, women, and other minorities. This was done mostly by raising the cost of labor through wage increases and other benefits. Raise the cost of labor and less people are hired. The first heads on the chopping block when companies cut labor costs were minorities. So perhaps those that keep their jobs are better off, but black workers paid the cost.
War on Poverty (welfare state)
It’s my belief that every issue in black communities, or for that matter all communities, can be traced to the epidemic of broken homes. One of the best ways to predict a child’s future success is to take a look at his or her family. Is the dad around? If not, their odds aren’t looking good. The War on Poverty started this epidemic in the black community.
The “War on Poverty” was enacted by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. It involved a huge amount of antipoverty legislation, increasing the welfare state in an unprecedented way. LBJ spoke of blacks specifically hoping to fix the disproportionately high rate of black poverty.
What’s odd is that the economic situation in America at the time of this legislation was looking bright for black people. The poverty rate for all Americans had been on the decline since the beginning of the decade. The black poverty rate was reduced by nearly 50% between 1940 and 1960. Despite these economic improvements welfare was earmarked as a priority. After the War on Poverty was enacted the economic improvements in black communities stalled dramatically.
Upon the expansion of the welfare state, the number of single mother households increased tenfold. The promise of food stamps, public housing and medicaid were designed in a way that allowed mothers to receive more benefits if they were single rather than married. The programs designed to tackle poverty actually incentivised behavior that perpetuated it. 68% of black women who gave birth in 2012 were unmarried, in 1965 this figure was 25%. Black women started to see the government as a more stable financial partner than the father of their own children. Fathers were no longer necessary, something black men realized as well.
Ok so maybe there were good intentions here that had an adverse effect on black communities unintentionally. That might be my conclusion if I knew nothing about LBJ and his surrounding staff. Even MSNBC has reported on LBJ’s raging racism and lack of respect for black people. Despite holding onto this idiotic intellectual ideology, LBJ was a smart politician. If you’re part of the party who runs on the promise that the government will give out more free stuff, in order to win elections you need people to be dependent on said free stuff.
There is report after report of LBJ saying nasty things about black people. Ronald Kessler ruffled many a feather after reporting in his book Inside the White House: The Hidden Lives of the Modern Presidents and the Secrets of the World’s Most Powerful Institution that, when discussing the importance of the civil rights bill with two governors, LBJ explained it was important because it would “…have them niggers voting Democratic for two hundred years.”
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote that LBJ made this statement:
“These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don’t move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there’ll be no way of stopping them, we’ll lose the filibuster and there’ll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again.”
In the 1960s roughly 66% of blacks voted Democrat, after 1964 that percentage quickly rose to above 90%, LBJ’s plan worked. LBJ didn’t care about black people, he didn’t respect black people, what he did respect was power and influence. Creating an en environment that made black people more dependent on the government was a genius way to make them more dependent on the Democratic Party.
Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a known eugenicist. Even today, 79% of Planned Parenthood clinics are in minority populated neighborhoods. Black people make up 13% of the population but make up 35% of abortions.
Defenders of Sanger give her every benefit of the doubt imaginable. Can you imagine if Trump was caught saying, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members,” as Sanger did? I’m horrified by that statement but defenders brush it off as an “inartfully written” sentence.
Sanger famously wrote about sterilizing the weak stating, “the unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit,’ admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization.” Sanger didn’t have kind thoughts about the mentally or physically handicapped and that really is undeniable.
Sanger even presented at a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1926. Again, can you imagine if any political figure did this today the outrage that would follow? In 1939, Sanger initiated the Negro Project, one that intended to weed out the “unfit” from black communities.
George Washington himself was married without government issued documentation. Why would the government be involved with marriage? It’s a religious ceremony that’s between you, your partner and whatever church you belong to. It wasn’t until the 1920s that marriage licenses were implemented. All states at one point had laws outlawing interracial marriages and these licenses were designed to stop people from marrying outside their own race. Interracial marriages were not recognized by the state and therefore those couples lost inheritance, medical rights and every other benefit of common law marriage. In 1923 the federal government established a uniform marriage and marriage license act and by 1929 every state had adopted marriage license laws.
Marriage licenses were sold to the people as a way to help protect couples but were actually a way to monitor and control who was allowed to start a family with whom. There’s no reason for the government to know whom you marry. Concerns about inheritance, medical rights etc. could easily be handled by private lawyers and contracts. Marriage licenses are another way the government has a hand in our personal lives and are rooted in racism.
Wait, how can affirmative action be harmful to blacks? It was literally designed to help them?! If you aren’t familiar with affirmative action, it’s a policy that “favors” minorities. In other words, policies that require companies to hire a certain number of minorities or schools to accept a certain amount of minorities.
Right off the bat this should insult hard working people of all colors and backgrounds. Do you want to be hired because you were the most qualified and deserving of the job or because they needed a black person to hit their quota? If you have any pride whatsoever I would hope you’d choose the former.
This system also sets up minorities to fail. Unqualified people are hired, students who aren’t actually ready for university are accepted and it’s an uphill battle right from the start. In academia, race based admissions contribute to higher dropout rates. In order to hit the correct quotas for each ethnic group, different standards are applied even amongst minorities. For example, in order to get into Princeton, an Asian person must score 140 points higher on their SAT score than their non-asian counterpart. Tech companies are also being pressured not to hire “too many Asians.” Judging someone’s qualification based on their race is backwards and not what Martin Luther King Jr. advocated.
Occupational licensing and regulation is so commonplace today it’s hard to imagine life without them. Occupational licensing was started in congruence with Jim Crow laws of the south. When you made it harder to start a business with fees and additional costs the extra burden is harder on poor people. Black people were and still are on average poorer than whites, causing this burden to fall disproportionately on blacks. Even braiding hair requires a license. Occupational licensing laws cover roughly 10% of jobs, often going beyond health and safety objectives that would be deemed appropriate by the average human. Black people are still being hindered with regulations today.
I’ve always thought it odd when the people telling me the police target black people are often the same ones who want us to turn over all of our guns but this train of thought isn’t new. Gun control laws were first implemented to disarm recently freed slaves and there was even an effort to prevent the Black Panthers from carrying weapons.
Nowadays, gun control laws often feature mandatory minimum sentences making it impossible for judges to take into consideration the circumstances at hand which results in unfair sentences for those attempting to protect themselves against corruption whether race based or not. If racism is alive and well in America, disarming those in the targeted minority makes little to no sense.
If you want to do away with anything that has ever been linked to racism or the decline of black communities go ahead. Just keep in mind that the list should include welfare, gun control laws, licensing, Planned Parenthood, labor unions, minimum wage and affirmative action.
I hope you take away two things from reading this. One, that something can have an imperfect history and still have a net positive effect on society (i.e. the brilliance that is the United States Constitution) and two, the expansion of government has never really helped black people out.
If you’re concerned about the well being of black people join the club! But you might want to read the Constitution and dig into the data on what’s actually hurting black communities before you start making a fuss over the Star Spangled Banner.